Parenting is the greatest, yet most difficult thing you’ll ever experience.
I don’t know if you’ve heard this said, but it holds true in my life. Parenting is the role in my life where I’ve experienced so much joy and been the most blessed and sanctified at the same time. Add in not only being a parent with all the ups and downs but being a foster parent and the fact that you’re basically temporary—And all the emotions that come with that—and it feels all the more joyous and sanctifying.
“You might be temporary in their lives. They might be temporary in yours. But there is nothing temporary about the love or the lesson.” Tonia Christle
Isn’t this true? We’re caring for kiddos right now that one day, most likely, will have no idea who we are.
When days turn to weeks, weeks turn to months, months years, and so on, life with this child becomes normal; you are no longer strangers. As a parent, you know that child’s personality, favorite things, habits, needs, and wants inside and out. You’re the one getting up in the middle of the night to calm that little one after a bad dream. You’re the one who cleans up scrapes and puts ice on bumps. Then one day they leave, your arms are empty, and the grief sets in.
I haven’t experienced this yet, but my mind drifts to that moment often. I think about what it will be like to say goodbye. I can’t help but wonder not only about the moment just after but about years down the road.
You picture that face over and over again in your mind. You keep the sound of his giggle on repeat in your mind, too. You never want to forget the little one who taught you how to love in ways you didn’t even know were possible.
Your little one and the memories frozen in time, and yet years pass.
Fast forward fifteen years. You’re in the grocery store, and you pass a young man. You look straight into his eyes. You recognize those eyes. There was a time in his life you looked into those eyes daily and told him how beautiful they were and how loved and cherished he was.
It hits you. The memories of his time in your home come rushing back—that toddler smile, those crazy loud giggles. You think, “It can’t be him. Is it really him? Should I say something? No. He’ll think I’m some crazy lady. There is no way he’ll remember me, his once-upon-a-time-temporary Mama.”
Over the years, you’ve wondered about him. You’ve prayed for him often. But you never prepared for the day you’d see him again.
You start to wonder. Is he safe? Is he making wise choices in life? Is he healthy? He looks healthy. Was he told every day how loved he was? What have those eyes seen and experienced in the last fifteen years since I last saw him? Has he gone to church? Does he remember how to sing Jesus Loves Me word for word like he did as a three-year-old? Most importantly, does he know and have a relationship with Jesus?
You leave the grocery store empty-handed, walk—almost run—to your vehicle. Once the door closes, you lose it. How did fifteen years pass so quickly? You grieve your separation from him (along with the many others you’ve loved and cared for over the years as a foster parent) once again. Years later, the grief is still very much present.
Do you ever have thoughts like this? Maybe not this specific scenario, but think about seeing kiddos years down the road that you have cared for and loved?
Or have you been a foster parent long enough that you’ve been through this?
Nothing about foster care is quite normal.
I don’t know what this moment will be like, but in some ways, it’s helpful for me to picture it now. It helps me put things in perspective as a right-now-parent.
It helps me stay focused and to be intentional to care for the kiddo in my home, to teach my kiddo of God’s mercy, love, and saving grace, and to commit to praying daily.
And even after each child is gone, I’ll continue to pray—because although they aren’t physically present with me, they will forever be someone I love and cherish.
Jillian has a passion for reaching out and loving others. She began serving with TFI in college after learning more about the foster care community. Jillian is passionate about seeing the Church mobilized to serve and step into the lives of those affected by foster care. As a new foster mom, she is currently relying on donuts, coffee, and JESUS!
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